If one player could demonstrate the overall team effort and goals that Clinton LumberKings manager John Tamargo wants his players to demonstrate, second-year LumberKing and third-year Midwest League veteran Daniel Carroll did just that Tuesday night.
Carroll threw out two Kane County baserunners from center field, gunning down the Cougars’ Conner Crumbliss as he tried to score on a Max Stassi base hit in the first inning and then forcing out Myrio Richard in the third when Richard was slow getting into second on a sharply-hit ball from Kane County teammate Mike Gilmartin.
Then, Carroll proved equally adept on the offensive side, reaching base four times and stealing three bases to become Clinton’s top table-setter. His base hit and steal of second, which led to a Tim Morris RBI double, wound up breaking open a 1-1 tie, as the LumberKings pounded out six runs on as many hits in an 8-1 victory over the Cougars at Alliant Energy Field.
“It all helps,” Carroll said of using individual plays to put together a complete night. “There’s a certain feeling I’ll get when I know I’m going to have a good game, and I’ve been right so far.”
Carroll wouldn’t go so far as to say that being hit by pitches, as he was in the first inning when he took a Justin Marks pitch off the top of his ankle, helped. “It just makes me sore; it just hurts,” joked Carroll, who still had plenty of gas to steal at will on three different occasions off two different Cougars pitchers.
And all of the work that Carroll (1-for-3, two runs scored), Vinnie Catricala (same, with three times on base) and Luis Nunez (2-for-5) did in giving Morris and Brandon Bantz opportunities to drive in runs, made it much easier to score compared with early in the game, when it looked to be a pitchers’ duel between the ’Kings’ Taylor Stanton and Kane County’s Marks
“Those guys in front of me did a good job of getting on base,” said Morris, who had three extra-base hits, including a bases-clearing triple in the seventh as well as a double in the fourth and the double that scored Carroll in the sixth. “I’ve felt good since coming here; I’ve struggled at times, but it all evens out. For the most part, I’ve felt good.”
That also translates into just a bit more speed on the basepaths, as Morris had no trouble going into third base standing up after his triple went off the i wireless sign in right-center field.
“People look at me and I know they’re thinking I’m not that fast, but I can run pretty well for my size,” Morris said. “I take them by surprise.”
For Clinton (40-34, 3-2 in the second half), what was a pleasant surprise all around the park was team defense, whether it was Carroll’s two assists in center, a pair of great throws from James Jones and Gabriel Noriega in the fifth to cut down Kane County’s Rashun Dixon at home in a play that seemed to deflate the Cougars quite a bit, or simply strong pitching efforts from Stanton and relievers Brian Moran (4-1) and Brandon Josselyn (combining for 31⁄3 innings of shutout relief), defensive aggressiveness seemed to pay off.
“I think sometimes (defensive plays) are like hitting in that when you see somebody make a nice play, you want to make a nice play. Plus, with our pitchers being around the plate, it tends to keep guys on their toes more,” Clinton manager John Tamargo said. “Stanton gave up some hits, but he also made great pitches when he had to, and Moran, guys have trouble picking the ball up against him.
“It was kind of fun watching them play. We played aggressive, we stole bases and forced some things. That’s always good. It’s something we’re going to have to do more of for us to be successful. Early on, we relied on the three-run homer, but now we have to be aggressive on the bases.”
Clinton and Kane County conclude their three-game series at 7 tonight at Alliant, with Jimmy Gillheeney (4-6, 3.36 ERA) taking the hill for the LumberKings. For Kane County (34-40, 2-3), Rob Gilliam (5-5, 3.90) will get the start. After tonight’s game, the ‘Kings will make the trip west on U.S. 30 to face the Cedar Rapids Kernels in Cedar Rapids for a three-game series that begins Thursday, with Clinton not returning home until July 7.